PC Activist Profile: Leyana Dessauer

Leyana spoke at the Peace Council’s demonstration in June of 2009 to support the children of Gaza. Photo:Andy Mager

Homeschooled until middle school, Leyana Dessauer had plenty of time to write careful letters to the editor at a young age. The Syracuse native now attends tenth grade at Nottingham High School, spends weekends at Common Place Community Land Trust in Truxton, NY, and in what little free time she has organizes against hydrofracking. Since Leyana first heard about hydrofracking two years ago, she has organized classroom speakers, public forums, and a rally at the Thornden Park water tower.

How did you get started in the activist world?
My parents are both political organizer-type people. I was on the margins of it until I started learning about hydrofracking. My parents mentioned hydrofracking to me and I started researching like crazy. I went through a month where I was horribly depressed because I was doing constant research. But I thought I have to do something or I’m just going to go down the drain. And then I just started organizing.

How does your organizing interact with your school life?
It’s hard to organize and do schoolwork. This summer, though, I get to spend the whole summer organizing about fracking. I want to talk to people who have experience with civil disobedience, try to get a training going, and then brainstorm. Maybe we can do sit-ins at pro-fracking politicians’ offices. Or, if there’s enough interest, go downstate where there’s already vertical fracking and see if there’s a landowner who leased who wants to have us act on their land.

Can you describe some of the challenges and successes in your activism?
I want to get other kids involved. It’s hard to get people at Nottingham involved because they’re so stressed. They are so busy with their lives and just aren’t interested in environmental stuff. It can be frustrating working in a void. But an empowering moment was when the county legislature passed the resolution for a moratorium in the county. Another time was when I spoke briefly at the rally on [May 2, in Albany].

What keeps you doing this work?
Honestly it’s the worry about what will happen if people don’t do something. If I don’t stay involved in some way I’m going to get terribly depressed about it again. Or just ignore it, which I think is worse. And this isn’t why, but it’s cool to be in the newspaper. But mainly it’s wanting to at least try. I guess it’s the distant dream of having a ban all over the world.

—Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre